PunkconformityLife, history, and the pursuit of knitting.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I'd rather be a Dorothy than a Daisy

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I am inordinately right-handed. And do you know the worst part about being extraordinarily right-handed? When some injury befalls that side of your body (say, a vague tearing sensation in the muscles somewhere between your clavicle and shoulder-blade) you become unable to do just about anything productive. For the last two days, I have been slathered in aspercreme and dosed with Aleve, taking shallow breaths lest the shooting pain that runs from the top of my shoulder down through my ribs get any more annoyed at me than it already is, and have been unable to do anything that involved moving my right arm more than two or three inches in any direction, which means activities such as manual labor, drinking, playing guitar, reading, and cooking have all been put on hold. Needless to say, I’ve been doing a lot of knitting. I am half-way done with a gorgeous pair of Grace Note socks, made from lightweight STR in the Haida colorway, that I may frame and put up on the wall, I love them so much. I finished the first skein on my stupid impulse lap rug. And yesterday, while watching the Panthers and the Dolphins fail to show up to their season openers, I made myself a felted cloche.

While the first part of that statement ought to be surprising enough (I voluntarily watched football! I think I must be growing as a person), the second part is actually far more surprising, as I am, in fact, allergic to wool. But I used Patons Classic, which is only marginally itchy, and I plan on lining it (just a good plan, anyway, when you get hat-hair like I do), so I shouldn’t have too much of a problem that way.

I used Cirilia Rose’s Stirling Cloche pattern, which expressly tells you not to use 100% wool, but as I play at being a knitting anarchist, I went ahead and used wool anyway. Which would have been fine, had I not had a slight miscommunication with the resident felter of the house – my mom. Of course, as the pattern is not intended for heavy felting, it creates a hat only slightly bigger than the finished product ought to be. When Mom commented on how small the hat seemed on the needles, I explained that it was intended to be lightly felted, like thrown-in-the-sink-and-done-by-hand felted, and she said oh, okay, that’s fine, then. So far, so good. But when the time came for me to put it in the sink and hand-felt it, my mother insisted that would take forever, and I should just toss it in the washer for 15 minutes. When I protested that 15 minutes seemed like an awfully long time, she compromised with 10, and we went from there. After 10 minutes, it was likely the perfect size, but as there were still row lines visible, my mom tossed it back in the wash for another 10 minutes.

What came out of the washer was roughly the size of your average cereal bowl, and shaped similarly. The brim that I had so carefully constructed was nowhere to be seen. After five or ten minutes of strenuous tugging, I had something that more closely resembles a toboggan with a floppy brim than a cloche, but I’m not completely unhappy with it. I think once I attach a ribbon to it, it will be quite fetching, and it certainly serves the purpose I made it for, which was to make a classy hat to cover my ears for winter.

However, the kicker to the whole story is that afterward, when we went back upstairs, my mom snagged Cirilia’s pattern and looked it over. At which time she announces, “It says not to use 100% wool! If I had known that, I wouldn’t have told you to felt it for so long.” When I offered that I had told her it was supposed to be lightly felted, she responded with “There’s a difference between lightly felted and barely felted at all. This wanted barely felted at all.” Thus, ladies and gentlemen, are the pitfalls of the English language and attempting to use it for communication.

What I'm listening to: "How Do I Fix My Head" by Straylight Run

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"...for small town girls"

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We all recognize that the recession has made things extremely difficult. If you have a job, no matter how annoying and horrible you find it on a daily basis, be grateful, because there are so many of us out there who would very much like to employed who simply cannot find work. There is an average of 6 people applying for every one job out there right now, and something like 80% of them are overqualified for the positions they are attempting to fill. Which is really just a long-winded way of saying that I graduated with my MA three months ago and can’t even find work as a glorified filing clerk. But rather than waste this time sitting on my backside, contemplating my navel, I have made a list (the Shit to Get Done Before I Find a Job list). This list is as follows:

1) Lay the flooring in my parents’ upstairs guest bedroom. As some of you may know, my parents have been constructing their house since roughly the time of my birth. It is unlikely to ever be completed, as every time the end approaches, my father either ceases all efforts to reach it or decides another addition is in order. In an attempt to prevent this by slipping in some completed projects under his nose, I am putting down the beautiful Brazilian hardwood flooring upstairs. It’s not particularly difficult, just time consuming, and I hope to have it completed by next weekend.

2) Make my own entertainment center. I’ve built furniture in the past – the bookshelf bed that was at my first apartment, the shelves that house my cds and all my language books in my room at my parents’ – but never anything as involved as an entertainment center. Since I’m at home, where all the tools are and where my daddy (who has the knowledge and skills) is, I might as well use this opportunity to learn to make myself a piece of furniture that meets my several and slightly odd criteria. These criteria include not only dimensions and design elements, but the all important requirement of weight. If the answer to the question “Can I move it (or at least lift one end of it) by myself?” is a resounding no, then I’ve done something wrong. Having lived with Susie, whose entertainment center weighed roughly the equivalent of the combined weight of the entire Chinese population, I’ve learned that I never want to have a piece of furniture that people ask if you still own before they agree to help you move. So, as long as I can hold my father back from his natural tendency to build furniture for giants, I will hopefully end up with an entertainment center that can hold my TV, DVD player, receiver, and record player, as well as all my DVDs, and still be light enough that I can – with some maneuvering – move it around my apartment by myself.

3) Make a rag rug. For some unfathomable reason (actually, it’s pretty fathomable. I blame the large display of DIY books at Barnes and Noble that included the Better Homes and Gardens New Cottage Style), I have become possessed of the need to make rag rugs. I had already intended to make one akin to Kay and Ann’s Tailgate Rag Rug, for a bathmat, so it would have to be blue and turquoise to match all my bathroom fixtures. But somehow, when I started cutting my pretty blue sheets up into strips (which, by the way, is hell. You will never truly understand just how big a full-sized sheet is until you attempt to cut it into ½ strips.), I began to realize that I wasn’t just imagining a single rag rug, but one in the bathroom and one in the kitchen. So, as frequently seems to happen, my project list has multiplied yet again, as I now have to make two rag rugs – the blue and crème one (for a bathmat), and a red and crème one (for the kitchen). And now I’m thinking that I may make another one of solely blue rags as a doormat for outside the back door. But I haven’t started knitting yet, so I don’t know. I’m still stuck cutting strips.

4) Make stuff for my etsy. As my penchant is for knitting small, relatively quickly completeable things, it makes some measure of sense to attempt to sell them to other people, because, let’s face it, how many arm-warmers does one person really need? So I’m trying my hand at designing and coming up with some pretty patterns, and then I’m hopeful people will give me money for them. If not, no great loss – I recognize that there’s a ridiculously large quantity of arm-warmers on etsy, and it’s not like I won’t wear them myself. But it’s a shot at making enough cash on the side to pay for my yarn habit.

5) Finish painting all the Christmas decorations from years past. Once upon a time, many, many years ago, I painted resin and acrylic ornaments and statues as a hobby and to keep myself off the mean streets. Then high school and college happened, and I haven’t so much as looked at my collection of half-painted Santas, angels, et al, in years. But as the studio is rapidly being taken over by uncompleted projects of my mother’s doing (or not-doing, in point of fact), I think it only right that I should get some of my stuff out of her way (not to mention gain the moral high ground for arguments about stash enhancement and the developing new artistic interests). So, I have begun to paint again, and have finished my 3D nativity scene, a puppy ornament, and begun work on an angel.

6) Pictures. I don’t love clutter. Clutter makes me antsy. So while I loved living with Susie, I was disinclined to put up my own artwork and photographs on the walls in our apartment because of the sheer volume of stuff already up there. The minimalist in me would have been overwhelmed by anything more. But now that I will be living on my own, every wall in my home will be up for grabs. In preparation for this, I have begun sorting through my pictures and printing out hi-def copies of the ones I love best to adorn my walls. I have also been busy painting and repairing old frames so that they are ready when the time comes.

What I'm listening to: "It Was a Very Good Year" by Robbie Williams and Frank Sinatra
Friday, September 11, 2009


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Recently, I have purchased many things for arts and crafting that are outside the realm of my typical interests.

These include, in no particular order:

3 fat quarters of fabric, from the etsy-ers precioussewingbox and rainbowfabrics.
The Christmas birds and the Virgin of Guadalupe are for quilted pillows, but the other one is a spur-of-the-moment piece that I have no real plans for. Perhaps it will be an art panel for the wall? I don't know yet, but we shall see.

2 skeins of Patons wool in charcoal grey, for the making of a cloche. Winter is coming far too fast, and my ears are already cringing. Granted, that may be due to the fact that I am allergic to wool, and the idea of wearing a solid wool hat for any time at all is making my eyes water and my ears turn red in anticipation. But as I plan to line the stupid thing, I doubt that's really the issue.

A red and white striped tablecloth/sheet (of obviously unknown use), c/o Goodwill, intended to be shredded into a gigantically long strip and turned into a rag rug for the kitchen I don't yet have. (More on rag-rugging in a later post. Prepare yourself.)

3 spools of 100% spun polyester thread, which, when held together, might turn out to be lace-weight (maybe. if I squint), and will hopefully turn in to some yet-to-be-determined lacy and attractive something.

A black bar bead from the wonderful folks at Fresh. What it will get used for, I have no idea. But it was 50% off and beautiful, so I had to get it. Maybe I'll make a bag or a camera case or something with it.

And I also bought, not for crafting, but just because, a canvas hamper with a bird screenprint and a cotton rug printed to look like a peacock's tail, both from urban. While I'm not usually such an indie hipster, I couldn't help myself this time. I've been looking for a nice hamper since I moved, and both things were surprisingly reasonably priced for urban, so I don't feel as bad as I might otherwise. But when I have money, I'm gonna have to avoid that webstore the same way I avoid the Pottery Barn.
Saturday, June 6, 2009

Faster-Finish Liners (TM)

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In high school, I was convinced that if I didn't make it as a recording engineer, I could always become a graphic designer. Both of those dreams having the same realism and staying power as your average five-year-old's desire to be an astronaut, I haven't spent a whole lot of time messing around in Photoshop since I hit college (which, considering the job market for historians, was maybe a mistake on my part), except to make desktop and the occasional livejournal backgrounds. That said, my parents commissioned a logo from me the other day, so I sat down with my drawing tablet and a couple pictures of the thing they wanted (it's a liner-tray. which means a tray of baby-plants, for the uninitiated), and went to town. Five hours later, I had this
which ain't too shabby, considering. There are some things I think I should have done differently (namely, the leaves aren't vectored, and are only on two layers, which makes it hard to selectively prune. oops), but overall, I'm very happy with how it turned out, and I had a blast doing it. Oh graphic design, how I missed thee.

What I'm listening to: "Glow Worm" by The Mills Brothers
Thursday, May 7, 2009


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Recently posted across the street from my parents' house:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Eva Elizabeth

There are a few things that all the knowledge and faith in the world can't prepare you to deal with, and losing a baby is one of them. On April 8, 2009, our little bitty Evie-face, aged twenty months, died of complications from leukemia. Putting it that way makes it such a stark, cold fact, an emotional void, when in fact there's so much more tied up with it than just the facts of what happened and why. There's months of fear and prayer and hope, of the elation when they said she was in remission, of worry when she didn't seem to be improving, and then certainty that putting her on the ECMO machine (for more info) would give her the time to get better, because our little girl was such a fighter. And then the misery that came when they said her lungs weren't improving, and there wasn't anything more they could do. I will never know how her mom made the choice to take her off the machines, and held her while she left us. I can't imagine how painful that must have been.

Saying goodbye to someone you loved that much is never easy, but I think it's that much harder when they're so young, and you think about all the things they didn't get to do, all the fun they never got to have, and the information they never got to learn. I never truly understood the purpose of those gorgeous, fancy layettes that nineteenth-century babies were so often buried in until now. Because making something for a dying child is, in many ways, a cathartic process. It lets you put all your love and good memories into a piece of fabric that you know they will have with them forever. It is the last gift you can give them, and you are wrapping them up in something that has your hopes and dreams for them woven into every stitch. Though you can't go with them, this piece of clothing can, and it represents your desire to stay with them and keep them safe forever. And it is a process, too, because as you knit you're having to come to terms with what is happening to your baby, and what it means to your life. I'm not saying that as you knit the last stitch you somehow miraculously find acceptance and closure - that's not possible in a situation like this, not even remotely. But you do begin to deal with the idea that you're not going to be able to be with the child and keep it safe, and you spend so much time thinking about your love for them and all the good memories you have of them that it maybe hurts a tiny bit less, knowing that you've at least been able to do this much for them when you couldn't do anything more.

So basically all I can say, the only thing that really needs to be said, is we love you, Evie Liz, and we miss you very much.
Monday, February 2, 2009

Recipe: Sweet Potato Stew

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3 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
3 tbsp. Light Brown Sugar
1 lb. Stew Beef
4 c. water
1 c. beef broth
2 Sweet Potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 bag frozen peas and carrots
1 bag frozen lima beans

Brown stew meat in brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Add water and beef broth, and let simmer for 30 minutes. Add sweet potatoes, reduce heat, and cook for ten-fifteen minutes. Add frozen veggies and let simmer until cooked, about fifteen-twenty more minutes, or until it thickens. Salt to taste. Serves 4.

All measurements are, of course, approximate, as I come from the Justin Wilson school of cooking and cannot be bothered to get out measuring utensils when I could just pour.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009


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New project. Or, rather, finished old project. Back in September, I saw the Eternamente project over at Anticraft, and fell in love with it, as I am wont to do with things involving skeletons and/or the Spanish language. (I never claimed to be normal, okay?) It being close to Halloween, I went to my local AC Moore and picked up all the supplies I needed for the project, and spent the first couple Sundays of the semester indulging myself.

The only wooden skeletons they had were sadly misshapen things, with heads that more closely resembled the gourd family than a human skull. So I took an exato-knife to them, and helped them out a little. I was glad I'd gotten three of them, as the first one ended up splitting in a couple rather unattractive places. When I was done, they looked a little something like this:
Certainly not the most realistic skeletons, ever, but that's okay. I reattached the heads very carefully by punching holes through their chins with a brass tack, and then threading the wire through the hole.

After that, I painted them with two coats of black paint. I outlined the bones with silver, and used red and yellow to give them flaming hearts, which are actually relatively realistically shaped. I was proud of myself. I used sparkle paint leftover from my Carnivale mask two years ago to paint the eye-flowers (turquoise for the man, purple for the woman).

I knitted the woman a shawl of three strands of white thread held together, and cut the man a turquoise vest out of leftover material from my Carnivale skirt. At first it looked a lot like his day-job must have been as a convenience-store clerk, but I think I've reshaped it enough that it looks better now.

For the backing, I sliced the piece of styrofoam backing that came with the shadowbox in half with a hacksaw (that was messy, let me tell you. Little bitty balls of styrofoam went everywhere, and refused to leave. Tenacious little suckers. In future, will do this outside, or in shop, or somewhere other than upstairs, in the studio, surrounded by fiber that can't wait to mate for life with little particles of white, spongy stuff). I glued the thin piece to the back of the shadowbox, and then glued a piece of purple scrapbooking paper, to which I had affixed a bunch of black rhinestones in a random pattern, to the front of the styrofoam. I balled up a length of pretty turquoise ribbon at the bottom of the box. The message is written on a piece of cream-colored paper, which I crumpled up and then unrolled several times before I wrote on it. It is taped to their legs on the back, while they are taped to the top of the box.

At some point I will probably attempt to tack them to the top of the box with small staples, and I'm still working out how to get them to hold hands (glue, probably, but that feels awfully unfair to them). But I'm quite happy with how it turned out, otherwise.